Tag Archives: Toxic people are not part of my life

Gaslighting – A message to Women from a Man: You are not “crazy”

12 Jan

I seldom write a column that purely features another’s post, but today is an exception.  I came across the following Huffington Post article and it resonated so well with me that I have to share it with you.  It is called:

A message to women from a man:  You are not “crazy”

A few excerpts follow below…  I am intrigued by the article for a couple of reasons:  1. The author (from his name and photograph) does not seem to be of Western descent which makes his candid (and true) observations even more relevant and powerful based on traditional views of women outside of the west; and 2. I have no idea why it would take another male to tell me that I was never crazy (or why I ever believed that I was crazy when males I loved needed a scapegoat for their bad behavior.)

Here’s an excerpt from Yashir Ali’s post:

A remark intended to shut you down like, “Calm down, you’re overreacting,” after you just addressed someone else’s bad behavior, is emotional manipulation, pure and simple.

And this is the sort of emotional manipulation that feeds an epidemic in our country, an epidemic that defines women as crazy, irrational, overly sensitive, unhinged. This epidemic helps fuel the idea that women need only the slightest provocation to unleash their (crazy) emotions. It’s patently false and unfair.

WOW – OMG – holy crap!!!  And I say that in all honesty!

I do not have a litany of male relationships in my past on which to draw (my father, a 23 year marriage that ended in divorce, a 5 year relationship, dates here and there) – but all of them (and I’ll include my mother here) – told me that I was overly sensitive, irrational, and crazy should I ever address or question what my heart told me was bad behavior.  The statement above confirms what I always thought but never dared to speak:  emotional manipulation is about the sender and their need to cover for bad behavior.  It really has nothing to do with the receiver!

What is it in “our” (at least my) female DNA that reduces and diminishes powerful business women (like me) to a whimpering mess when a significant male in our personal lives repeatedly tells us we are crazy?  Why do we believe things about our person as being true just because someone we love spews vitriol at us?  We are forces to be reckoned with and have taken our places aside men in the professional world – and thrived! – yet we are reduced to tears (and accept the treatment) in our personal life by males who we would easily challenge (or report for abusive behavior) if we met them in business.

Why do we so readily give away our power, override our intuition, and accept lies from people when we fall in love?  More and more I believe in the adage:

Love IS blind!

Another excerpt:

And the act of gaslighting does not simply affect women who are not quite sure of themselves. Even vocal, confident, assertive women are vulnerable to gaslighting.

Why?

Because women bare the brunt of our neurosis. It is much easier for us to place our emotional burdens on the shoulders of our wives, our female friends, our girlfriends, our female employees, our female colleagues, than for us to impose them on the shoulders of men.

It’s a whole lot easier to emotionally manipulate someone who has been conditioned by our society to accept it. We continue to burden women because they don’t refuse our burdens as easily. It’s the ultimate cowardice.

Whether gaslighting is conscious or not, it produces the same result: It renders some women emotionally mute.

These women aren’t able to clearly express to their spouses that what is said or done to them is hurtful. They can’t tell their boss that his behavior is disrespectful and prevents them from doing their best work. They can’t tell their parents that, when they are being critical, they are doing more harm than good.

Do me a favor, read the article here,

A Message to Women From a Man: You Are Not “Crazy”

and let me know what YOU think.

I feel relieved to know that I am not alone with the emotional manipulation of my past, however, it pains me to know that it may be so prevalent that it might be an epidemic!

I wonder if we attract dysfunctional people into our lives… and whether there is hope for the future.  I can only speak for myself but I know that I am hypersensitive to anyone who walks, acts or in anyway resembles my exes.

What do you think?

Carol

The Reality “Fog”…

16 Nov

FogYour life is YOUR story – and whatever you experience and feel is your reality.  Personally, the past few months have had its share of ups and downs dealing with false friends, real estate agents, inspectors, banks, movers, and various sundry “characters” in my story.  The good news is that I emerged from it all with a new beginning (having sold my “albatross” house – far too big and far too costly!) and now claim a wonderful waterfront apartment as my new home.

Just like yours, my story is laden with emotions, experiences, and observations that are unique to me.  No one else can tell my story or your story like either of us can, yet we often lose sight of this.  Frequently, we get caught up in thinking that we know another person’s story as well as our own.  I call this the reality “fog“.

As a case in point, last Saturday’s St. Petersburg Times featured an article about a  78-year old woman whose at-home death four months ago was only discovered this week by a property manager.  The article stated that the woman lived alone and that “there’s no evidence that there was anyone in her life as far back as 1992,” according to a police official.

The relevance of the article to my topic concerns not the woman’s death or the circumstance, but rather the judgements and observations by virtual strangers.  “She really was as much of a hermit as somebody can be… she really did not want anybody to come inside ever. It’s a sad thing for sure,”  remarked the managing member of her apartment complex.  A landlord from 16 years ago said “She kept her head down and walked fast and worked hard… I think she was upset that she didn’t have a family or wistful that she lost touch.”

Personally I find it astonishing that people who barely knew Joan Greeley (the woman) would so eagerly think that they knew her story well enough to tell it themselves.   Certainly the story reads better as a human interest story by including observations, but it illustrates that reality in absence of facts is really just “fog.”

I believe we can change this situation!  Before you judge another, get to know the people in your life personally – take an interest in their life and their loves.  Truly listen to their story and be patient to hear their perspective and insights.  Then and only then can you or I begin to see through the fog to envision their reality.

I know that I do not want others to tell my story without listening to what I have to say – how about you?  Let us give others the same courtesy and let them tell us their story!

Have an awesome week of listening, learning, and living!

Carol

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Alone but not Lonely…

22 Apr

I waited literally months and months to be able to proudly announce this!

This is not to say that I’m finished my journey towards full acceptance that being alone is a choice and an honor to myself, but rather to announce to myself that I am whole, complete and perfect, just as I am.

When I got divorced five years ago after an adulthood of being married, I looked around to find that most of my friends were acquaintances who live around the world (that is still true), or neighbors who weren’t really friends (my next door neighbors allowed my ex-husband to live with them for six months after the divorce), and local “friends” who chose sides and were unavailable to me.

wildflowersI felt totally alone for the first time in my life (having grown up with 4 siblings, this was a rare occurrence) – and the isolation and loneliness felt like it was going to swallow me whole.  At the time, I yearned for friendship and the company of anyone who would share a coffee with me!

You’ve probably heard that the universe (or God) seldom gives you more than you can handle – and that all good things come to those who wait – and in retrospect, I have to agree. I would never wish the isolation and utter loneliness I felt on anyone – yet I know that loneliness can be a state of mind as much as a circumstance.

As an extrovert, being alone was not a natural state, but today I applaud the solitude and refreshment that comes from loving one’s own company.  Today I CHOOSE friends who reciprocate my giving, and I no longer tolerate people who use me.  I realize that I deserve people in my life who respect and honor me – and I am cutting out people who do not.

For the first time in my life, I honor that  my new best friend (me) deserves only the best treatment from others – and I will not accept anything less on her behalf!

This wasn’t always the way – when I loved others more than I loved myself, I would end up giving others more than I gave myself and I felt sad that the reciprocity simply wasn’t there.  Now, I realize that the only one who will ever take care for me is me!  You can never be lonely when you are happy to be together in your own company!

Do you agree with me?

My message to you with this post is this:  If you feel lonely in your own company, commit to changing your outlook – one day at a time. 

In other words, commit to becoming your own best friend and finding fun and happiness with him/her.  You will be the only friend you’ll find who is guaranteed not to leave you!

My journey has taken five years (and I’m still traveling) – but it has been well worth the hills, mountains, valleys and swamps I’ve traversed to get here.  There are still days when I recall my daughter’s words after the divorce:  “Mom, you have to walk through fire for a long time to get to the other side, but it WILL be worth it!”  She is too wise for her 27 years!

Begin with becoming your own best friend and cheerleader – today!  Learn to celebrate the great things about you, yourself and you (sidenote: The Royal We is “me, myself, and I”!)

Start by writing down (get a pen and paper right now) 50 things you like about you- or are grateful for… and keep the list with you. 

How often have you thanked yourself for who you are?  Start with saying “thank you for being…” and watch the difference it makes,

Or try the third person technique:  if you can’t get to 10 quickly, pretend that you were looking back at your life and writing about yourself in the third person.  (Here’s an example:  Carol is an eloquent and passionate speaker.  Carol cares about people more than things…)

When you focus on becoming your own best friend, self-love emanates from within and you’ll become happier by the day (no matter what your external circumstances).  Being alone and not lonely is one of the greatest gifts my divorce has given me – I love being with myself, and I am truly grateful for who I am – for me.

Wishing you a happy weekend, whether you spend it alone with your new best friend (YOU!) or the company of others!

Best,
Carol
p.s. It is EARTH DAY today… I am grateful that YOU are on this earth and reading this!


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I never used to…

4 Apr

It’s a funny thing how the past invades our present. Even with our best intentions of living in the present (like “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle, our brains are hardwired with memories of the past.

I find this coming to bear when I hear my inner voice saying “I never used to…” do/say/feel/think. Does this happen to you?

Perhaps this is how our soul tells us we are moving forward to become the person we are intended to be!   It is a way of tracking the positive changes in our lives!  (At least it is for me.)

When I hear a voice telling me “I never used to…” I know that I am growing!

Here’s my list of things “I never used to… (do)”

Examine friendships: In the past I would most of the work to nurture a friendship or relationship even when it was toxic. Today I know friendship is a give-and-take and it is up to me to “choose” whether to be friends with those who simply take.

Think BEFORE I buy (especially something is on sale); Today I realize that a “bargain” holds true only for things I will actually use!

Be self-indulgent; In the past I always put my ex-husband and my children’s wants before my own.

Say no to others (especially when they used guilt); Today I choose to say no when saying yes would overburden me.

Forgive myself; I used to beat myself up over and over for shortcomings of the past.

Protect my dreams; today I know that even well-intentioned people say cruel things they don’t mean.

Walk away from abusive behavior; in the past I would stand there and take abuse because I thought I had to – today I walk away as soon as I recognize it.

Realize that mean adults become mean seniors and people don’t change when they grow old.

Realize that love doesn’t have to hurt. I now know that real love means acceptance – not trying to change another.  I am so grateful for the love of parents and children!

-Trust my intuition; Today when someone tells me I’m crazy and I know I am not, I can laugh at them!

Be happy alone! I used to believe that being with anyone was better than being alone – and now I love my company!

Pick myself first! It is a pre-cursor to loving others.

Love who I am. It’s taken a few years to outgrow the poor relationships I tolerated in the past, but today I know that my happiness comes from within.

A friend told me this week that we tolerate disrespect from others when our self-esteem is low.  How true!

Don’t allow toxic people to invade your well-being (even if they say they love you!) Respect yourself above all others and you’ll find love in return.

It has been an adjustment to live the life I was intentioned to live after so many years being married.  My daughter, wise beyond her 26 years, tells me “sometimes you have to walk through fire to get to a better place”!

As a well-seasoned fire walker in life, I have to agree!

Wishing you a happy week ahead!

Carol

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Stop giving Outrageous Power to others – Pick yourself first!

29 Mar

A post by Seth Godin last week resonated with me: “Reject the tyranny of being picked: Pick yourself”. One of the most insightful statements he made was:

It’s a cultural instinct to wait to get picked. To seek out the permission and authority that comes from a publisher or talk show host or even a blogger saying, “I pick you.” Once you reject that impulse and realize that no one is going to select you–that Prince Charming has chosen another house–then you can actually get to work.

I completely agree!

All too often we wait for others to guide/help/choose us and we miss beneficial opportunities while we wait! In scenes reminiscent of schoolyard days long ago, we stand around in life waiting for our name to be called and we give OUTRAGEOUS power to people who often have no idea that we named them our team captain!

Even worse is when those to whom we have given our  also disparage us while we stand and wait. (Remember the person in class who was always picked last in gym class for the ball team? Maybe it was you!)  Such is the scourge of childhood – but it should not be our legacy as adults.  Being an adult means being able to choose yourself first!

Dump the baggage or pay the baggage fees…

Airlines charge for checked baggage.  I believe we should do the same with the emotional baggage we carry around.  We need to discard the unnecessary baggage – memories and past indifference that does not serve our best interests. We need to (re)claim our rightful power over our own being – the right to choose us!

There should be a Grown-up declaration day!

Many of us wake up to the realization of choice years after we become adults. How does this happen?  Typically, we’ve gone from childhood to adulthood without a major rebellion – and may have seamlessly transitioned from childhood (where others chose for us) to an adulthood where someone else stepped in to control us (with or without our permission).  For some reason, we missed the critical moment when we became an adult – and never seized the power to make our own choices.

No matter how well-meaning the loving controllers are in our life (husbands, wives, partners, bosses) – we deserve to take back our power to choose if we want to be responsible adults.  Unfortunately, sometimes we wake up to the fact that others are governing our life – even if we gave away our power – after years of unconscious ignorance.  There is good news – it is never too late to take back your power to choose!

You have the right to choose, just do it! It is time to take back the reins, make your own decisions and chart your own life from today forward.  Stop giving OUTRAGEOUS power to others – Pick yourself first!

Have a great week!

Carol


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Happiness is… no expectations

11 Feb

Remember the Charlie Brown song “Happiness Is…”?

Growing up, happiness seemed like something I was born to live (and it’s true!)  Somehow through the years it eroded with mortgages, workloads, family stress, divorce, and life.  When you watch the evening news it is easy to see that happiness is not the mainstay in society but the road back to it can be as simple as the Charlie Brown song.

For me, happiness comes when I remove expectations of others.

This takes away a lot of the disappointment I used to experience when I expected something of others. Without expectations, there is room for positive surprises. Yes, I realize that life is an interconnected web of people, places and events, but it is in discovering my own pure worth where I find happiness. Reliance on anyone else to achieve my happiness is a surefire way to failure.

I believe Einstein’s quote:

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

The inverse of this is also true: sanity is doing something different each time so that you can expect different results.  Makes sense doesn’t it.

In my first half of life, insanity (from an Einstein perspective) ruled.  Now that I have tried the sane route (different things), I have gained new results.  I would like to share with you my different ways of looking at things that brings about different results.

  1. Hope for the best in others, but never expect it.
  2. Never make anyone a priority for whom you are only an option.
  3. You can only anticipate (and count on) you.

These are new adages for me!  In prior posts I s, I used to think that the Golden Rule (do unto others as you would like them to do unto you) was a universal law, but I know today that it is only an ideal.  People do as they please in spite of or in the absence of me and of you!  Just because your actions may be giving and considerate does not mean that anyone else will behave or  treat you well.

Let’s explore each adage:

Hope for the best in others, but never expect it.

Today more than ever, people are necessarily self-centered and foraging to make ends meet for their family. So, unless you lend them money or give them a high paying job, you are likely a bit player. Expect nothing from others, and it will remove your disappointment. In fact, should another respond positively, it is a bonus.

Instead of expecting that people will be considerate of you or treat you well, remember that you can hope for the best, but know that this may not happen. Expectations lead to disappointment – lower your expectations to none, and your disappointment will slowly disappear.  People will either live up to your new expectations (which are none) or do better. (Yes, I know that supporters of the Secret would argue that the way others treat you is your own manifestation – but this is utter b.s. You can only manifest your OWN behavior.)

Never make anyone a priority for whom you are only an option.

This is my adaptation of a quote I heard a few weeks ago by a dating expert.  As female (and some male) colleagues know – we often over-give our energy to others, prematurely.  We fall in love completely and genuinely and begin to take care of another (and even make him/her a priority in our life) before there is mutuality.

Some partnerships end up with one spouse taking care of the other (with good intentions) and the other taking care of him/herself. This can be prevented by following the adage and taking care of oneself first and foremost. Side dishes may be good at dinners, but not in relationships.

This realization came late for me as I spent too many years in a relationship where we both prioritized his needs. Fool me once, shame on you but fool me twice, shame on me! Never again will I make someone a priority for whom I am merely an option.

You can only anticipate (and count on) you.

This is one point I have included in prior blog posts but is worth repeating. We can only ever change our own behavior, and live in our own heads. As such, every other person we meet is governed by his/her own beliefs and directs behavior.

Since we have no control over anyone else’s mind (except in the case of temporary hypnosis), we can only take responsibility for and anticipate our own behavior. Removing this illusion of control from our lives frees us up for happiness.

Happiness is… no expectations.

Do you agree?

Wishing you a happy day!
Carol

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Dear Daughter, Lessons from a female engineer (part 2)

31 Jan

You might be hearing many people saying that these times are not “normal”, and if you listen to the media, you know that predictions say things will get better, get worse, or stay the same. No one has any idea what will happen, but because bad news sells newspapers, gloom and doom prevails.

Today is the “new normal”. It doesn’t matter what anyone says was normal before or what might be tomorrow. Your life is a combination of your environment, attitude, background, personality, and luck/opportunity and it is as unique as you are (I love that!)

This does not mean that life is easy as every generation faces new challenges.  You will emerge from today’s economic instability with renewed energy and vitality – the universe never throws anything at you that you cannot handle (even when things seem overwhelming).

Carrying on from last week’s post (part 1) I hope you will let me share a few more tips from my life as a female engineer:

  • Listen to unsolicited advice (but you do not have to take it). Advice is worth what you pay for it, and when it is unsolicited, that tells you something right there.  Take it or leave it, just listen and then decide for yourself if it has any merit. Most people (with a few exceptions) throw out unsolicited advice hoping it will help you – but only you can decide whether to pick it up. When someone tosses you such advice, thank him or her, and then consider the source.

  • Be proud of you! (And your accomplishments.) You deserve praise from yourself.  I can tell you that I am proud of you, as can your friends, but the most important is when you are proud of you!
  • Patience and tolerance can be a double-edged sword. Practice patience with people – especially when it comes to situations out of your control (delayed flights), children, the elderly, and anyone who may not be as adept as you are.  The double edge comes when people take advantage of your patience in business or your personal life. When this happens, remember the adage:  fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.  If someone takes advantage of you for being patient, learn from it and don’t let it happen again.

The same goes for tolerance.  Start out by being open and tolerant to people whose beliefs or behaviors may be different from yours.  This has paid off greatly for me in my international work on ISO software standards: I have many global friendships and enjoy cultural adventures everywhere I travel.  The double edge comes when one is too tolerant – such as being tolerant of verbal or physical abuse.  When someone says or does something that makes you feel uncomfortable, your intuition may be telling you that your tolerance is set too high.  Abuse and bullying is beyond anything you should ever tolerate.

 

  • There are consequences to every action and no matter how much you plan, not everyone will agree with you. Always do your best – with decisions, work, and relationships.  By doing so, you reduce your regrets because you took action based on the information you had at the time. This does not guarantee that others will agree, but at least you can look in the mirror at the end of the day and take comfort that you did your best.
  • It is better to face conflict than to live a lie. Everyone faces times at work and in personal life where we avoid creating conflict with bullies, controlling people, and people who disrespect us for our opinions.  Of course I know that you already choose your battles wisely (why create conflict when it is over something trivial), there are also times when given conflict is important.  When you have to suppress saying what you feel for fear of an outburst or tantrum from someone you love, consider that it might be a toxic relationship. We do not choose who we fall in love with and there is no guarantee that your love will be emotionally healthy.  While another’s emotional health is not your responsibility, yours is.  Better to be yourself and face conflict than to sacrifice your emotional health and live a lie. It’s not always easy, but you deserve to be happy as you.
  • Always be authentic. I thought that I knew what this meant when I read it in author don Miguel Ruiz’s book, The Four Agreements, but I did not.  Being authentic and living with integrity means never saying anything to yourself that you would not say to your best friend.  Our inner critic can be cruel and treat us with total disrespect (telling us that we are stupid or fat or naïve or a host of other harsh words). When we allow our inner critic free reign over our intellectual real estate (our mind) – we are not being authentic!  Make sure you treat yourself with the same level of respect you afford your best friend, and you will soon find that you have a brighter outlook on life.
  • Everyone carries baggage. Even the most gorgeous, thin, young, rich, poor, or athletic people carry baggage and you may never know to what degree.  Life is not fair in terms of who experiences what and when, but life guarantees everyone his/her own story.  Rejection, ridicule, embarrassment, failure, success, pain and joy are sprinkled in every life – some get more of the good or bad than do others.  However, no one escapes feelings of inadequacy or self-doubt.  Be kind to strangers (unless there is danger) – you just never know how much a kind word can mean to a person living with pain.

I will always be proud to be your mother no matter what you do and no matter where you live.  You have only one life  — do all you can to make it a happy one!

Love and hugs,

Mom

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